Written by Sarah Murphy, TE Instructional Coach
Four months ago, I signed up to participate in the Houston Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I signed up to raise funds to support an end to a devastating disease as well as walk a total of 39.3 miles in 2 days. Taking on this challenge was exciting! In my head, it was also incredibly manageable. I mean, it’s walking…something that I do each day. Still, I recognized that I would be walking a marathon in one day, a feat which, legend has it, killed the first person on record to do so. Similar to a first year teacher’s journey, I made sure to think about the required training. This feat was going to require a lot of grit and endurance…but I knew the hard work would bring great rewards. Thus, I made sure to think about the required training in order to make those supporting me-financially and emotionally 🙂 -proud the day of the walk!
As soon as the confirmation email popped up in my inbox, indicating that I had indeed committed to this walk and raising these funds, I downloaded the training materials provided by the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Best. Decision. Ever. The training schedule provided suggestions for daily walks and workouts as well as distances for each week. I was not a strict devotee to the regimen provided. When it came to walking during the week, I was lucky if I got in one walk on a weekday. However, the weekends were a time, from January to April, when my boyfriend and I would set out into the city of Houston and walk. Another… Best. Decision. Ever. Preparing to walk the walk through these multi-mile journeys made me aware of the aches that sprang up, the fatigue which set in, and the amount of time needed to successfully complete particular distances. I was ready. I thought.
The day of the walk arrived. The training, walking in a multitude of temperatures and terrains, had led to this moment, huddled excitedly before dawn with hundreds of other walkers in Stude Park. Videos of those impacted by breast cancer and their inspirational and heartbreaking stories set the tone for the day and energized us as we prepared to walk. And walk we did. Pink-swathed walkers wound their way through the streets of Houston, trekking 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 miles on Sunday. During the many of hours of walking, I had ample time to enjoy the glorious, breezy weather, soak in the joy, smiles, and goodies from cheer stations and passing cars, and think. I thought of the end of the walk and the excitement it would bring. I thought of the current pain and frustration experienced by my feet. I thought of how grateful I was to have trained, how grateful I was for beautiful weather, and how grateful I was for rest stations with clean restrooms, hand sanitizer, and snacksJ All of the training I had received had prepared me for this task, and I still could not have anticipated how rewarding, exhausting, mentally and physically draining, and demanding it would be. And I loved every minute of it.
My journey in training for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and completing those 39.3 miles of walking is a journey which I directly connect to teaching. Dennis Hong writes that teaching is the job which the general populous views as ‘easy’ since we have all seen teaching. We have all been taught. However, the real, true craft of teaching is perfected through mastering a plethora of skills, skills which will not be easily adaptable for many who set foot in a classroom. Much like the Avon Walk, teaching brings continuous unexpected challenges, since students are the focus of the classroom, and students carry a multitude of needs and gaps. Due to the gaps of our students and the importance of closing those gaps, training and preparation must be tip top for those entering the field of teaching.
Teaching Excellence provides intensive summer training, geared towards preparing teachers for the taxing schedule of being a classroom teacher every day of the year. This time of focused, realistic preparation offers one support for novice teachers preparing to instruct students and shape minds. The training cannot end during the summer time, however. While my training walks were a wonderful preparation for the marathon and a half, I needed coaching during the walk itself. I needed reminders of the progress I was making, celebrating each mile marker as it came. I needed time to reboot and hydrate, and I needed encouragement in the form of smiles, claps, and ‘good jobs!’ from those along the way. If I had only trained ahead of time and had none of the ‘on the walk’ support, I would not have finished the walk. I would have let down my support system, and I would have let down myself. Teacher training must mirror this model. Following the intense preparation during the summer months, Teaching Excellence provides all teachers with coaching throughout the year, coaching aimed at highlighting strengths and identifying areas for growth, support and encouragement for the strength to do a job which can feel impossible. Yet, with the right support, the impossible can be achieved. Progress towards proficient teaching can be made, and students can sit in a classroom full of purpose, rigor, and positivity. It doesn’t happen overnight-many steps must be taken to reach that place. But few journeys are more worthwhile than the one which leads to a world where all students have an excellent teacher.